The two queens of Coronation Street were given their MBEs yesterday at Buckingham Palace - by the real Queen.

Barbara Knox, 77, who plays kindly shop owner Rita Sullivan, and Eileen Derbyshire, 79, who plays Emily Bishop, put on their best hats, clothes and pearls to meet the Queen who gave them the awards for services to television.

The Queen is known to be a fan of the show.

Coronation Street, nicknamed Corrie by its fans, is the world's longest running television soap opera, having been on our screens since December 1960. It is now regarded as a Great British institution.

Eileen has been in the soap since 1961 and is its longest-serving female cast member (William Roache, who plays Ken Barlow, is the only cast member to have been in the show since the very first episode) and Barbara since 1964.

Coronation Street is set in Weatherfield, a fictional area of Salford near Manchester, and depicts the lives of Northerners in the street's row of early 20th Century terraced houses which are found throughout Northern England (which were used to house cotton mill workers and their families) and three newer, semi-detached houses that were built in the late 1980s on the other side of the street.

The soap, which is also popular in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. In December, to mark the occasion, a tram will veer off a bridge that crosses the end of the street and crash onto the terraced houses, killing many of the characters, though ITV refuses to name who those characters will be (those actors will, of course, then be out of a job).

Coronation Street may be the world's longest running TV soap opera, but it is not the longest running soap opera of all. Another British soap opera, The Archers, which is on the radio, has that honour having been broadcast since 1951.

Corrie stars Barbara Knox and Eileen Derbyshire get MBEs from the Queen

By Simon Boyle
The Daily Mirror

Barbara Knox, the kindly owner of The Kabin, meets the Queen yesterday

"By 'Eck, Emily - if we flash these in the Rovers, Norris might even be persuaded to open his wallet and get in the sweet sherries."

Corrie stars Barbara Knox and Eileen Derbyshire - better known to millions as Rita Sullivan and Emily Bishop - have long been regarded as soap royalty.

And here they are looking majestic in posh hats and pearls at Buckingham Palace, proudly showing off their MBEs for services to television which they were awarded by the Queen yesterday.

They boast nearly 100 years combined service on the cobbles of Weatherfield and have remained two of the ITV soap's most popular stars since the 60s.

Eileen Derbyshire looks nervous whilst chatting to the Queen yesterday

Barbara, 77, first appeared as feisty flame-haired Kabin boss Rita in 1964, while 79-year-old Eileen, who is the longest-serving female cast member, arrived as God-fearing Emily in 1961.

Speaking after the Palace ceremony, they both spoke of their "immense pride" and praised the longevity of the soap.

US rapper Dizzee Rascal is a fan of Coronation Street, having watched it for the last 12 years. Last year he even asked to appear in an episode but ITV bosses declined his offer.

Eileen said: "It's very overwhelming quite honestly, because it's something I've done all my life and loved and suddenly I've got an honour.

"I suppose we do give a service, so many millions love the programme, so there you are. It's still very surprising."

British institution: Coronation Street, the world's longest running TV soap opera, celebrates its 50th anniversary in December

Working together: Emily and Rita help Norris Cole (Malcom Hebden) in The Kabin after his run-in with a gang of hoodies. Norris owns the shop and works in it alongside Rita. He's also a lodger of Emily's.

Ouch! Rita cops a slap from Audrey Roberts (Sue Nicholls) during a row. Rita's character has had many ups and downs

Well-meaning: Emily with wayward Ed (Chris Walker). Charity volunteer Emily has a heart of gold, and enjoys the occasional small sherry

Asked whether the Queen is a Corrie fan, Barbara replied with a smile: "I'm rather led to believe she does watch when she has time and she has visited the Street so she does know about it."

Quick to extend the honour to her soap co-stars and production staff, Barbara added: "They are a great team of actors and they are portraying marvellous people with great humour.

"We have marvellous storylines, very strong ones, and we have hit a nerve with the nation for almost 50 years. That's pretty special for a programme to do.

"Australia, New Zealand, Canada - all these places adore the Street. So we must be doing something right."

A spokesman for Corrie, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next month, said: "We are delighted that Eileen and Barbara have been honoured in this way. They are wonderful actresses and these honours are well deserved."

Oscar-WINNER Kevin Spacey, 51, received an honorary CBE from Prince Charles yesterday. These awards are made to foreign nationals in recognition of exceptional service to the UK. Kevin, 51, has been artistic director of London's Old Vic theatre since 2003.

Last edited by Blackleaf; Nov 4th, 2010 at 01:38 PM..